Mayra Gomez & Bret Thiele

Co-Executive Directors

Bret Thiele (JD) and Mayra Gómez (PhD), the founders of Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GIESCR), together have a long track record of human rights advocacy resulting in a range of ground-breaking impacts in economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights.

Bret Thiele received his Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School and his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Minnesota.  Mayra Gómez received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Minnesota, where her graduate work in human rights received a Graduate Research Excellence Award, the Don Martindale Award for Recognition of Excellence in Graduate Scholarship, the Anna Welsch Bright Memorial Research Award, as well as research grants from the MacArthur Interdisciplinary Program on Global Change, Sustainability and Justice. From 1998 to 2001, Bret and Mayra worked as aides to an Independent Member Expert to the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Prof. David Weissbrodt.

Before founding GI-ESCR, Bret and Mayra worked with several international human rights organisations, including ten years each with the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE). At COHRE Mayra served as the Senior Expert on Women and Housing Rights, and Bret as the Senior Expert on Litigation and Legal Advocacy. They also worked as consultants for Amnesty International, Global Rights, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, UN-Women, FAO, OHCHR, and with the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Adequate Housing and on the Rights to Water and Sanitation.

Bret has successfully litigated ESC rights before the World Bank Inspection Panel, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights, as well as before various United Nations treaty-monitoring bodies and as amicus curiae before domestic courts in several countries. His strategic litigation has successfully advanced the justiciability of ESC rights at various international and national levels including using the principle of indivisibility by placing issues of housing rights and the rights to water and sanitation before bodies, such as the Human Rights Committee.

Mayra has coordinated a wide-range of advocacy activities — including fact-finding missions, training missions and advocacy before international and regional bodies to ensure that women and girls throughout the world are able to enjoy their ESC rights. Her work has led to international standard setting in women’s housing, land and property rights through her work with international mechanisms such as the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as well as regional bodies such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Her research publications have been widely cited by such organisations as Amnesty International, Plan International, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN-Habitat, among others.

Both Bret and Mayra have participated in dozens of human rights fact-finding and training missions, with work carried out in over 40 countries.  Over the years, their successes in human rights advocacy have been covered by global media outlets such as the BBC, Al-Jazeera, Radio France Internationale, Voice of America, among others, as well as by various other national media sources.

Lucy McKernan

Geneva Representative

Lucy McKernan is the Geneva Representative of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. She is a human rights lawyer and experienced advocate for the human rights of persons living in poverty. She brings to the role a wealth of experience in human rights advocacy from the national and international levels, including how to effectively utilise the human rights mechanisms to advance the normative ESC rights framework and catalyse change at the domestic level. Lucy is a skilled advocate who has worked with a wide range of actors, including States, UN agencies, human rights mechanisms and civil society partners and devotes considerable time to facilitating access to the Geneva human rights mechanisms for local and national civil society partners. She is responsible for advocacy before the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures, the Treaty Bodies, and Missions to the UN in Geneva. She is based in Geneva.

Sylvain Aubry

Legal and research advisor

Sylvain Aubry is currently working as a Research and Legal Advisor with the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural rights. He has been leading on research and advocacy on human rights and the role of the State in the delivery of essential services with the organisation since 2014, focusing in particular on privatisation in education and human rights. He is coordinating research in 12 countries as well as engaging with States, international organisations, and UN mechanisms. He has previously carried out research, capacity building and advocacy for various organisations, including Amnesty International, the Right to Education Project, FIAN International, ActionAid, and ESCR-Net, working on economic, social and cultural rights for the past 7 years. He has worked in particular on States’ obligations, the right to food, land rights, the right to health, corporate accountability, transitional justice, Roma rights,and the right to education, topics on which he has authored or co-authored about 30 reports and academic articles. He holds an LLM in international human rights law from the University of Essex and a Diploma in political sciences and international relations from Sciences Po Aix.

You can find his full profile on Sylvain is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Océane Blavot

Research and Campaign Officer

Océane Blavot is currently working at the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as a Research and Campaign officer. Océane works on privatisation in the delivery of social services in the global south and particularly on privatisation of education the African Francophone region.

Océane holds a Masters from IRIS Sup’, the well-known French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) Think Tank’s school. During her Masters, she completed her dissertation on privatisation of social services in the global south through donors’ partnerships with private actors, which led to the publication of an article in IRIS’s Humanitarian Affairs Think Tank: “What donor strategy lies beneath the renewal of cooperation with the private sector?”. Previously to IRIS Sup’, Océane graduated from the University of Brighton in the UK, with a BA in “Globalisation: History, Politics, Culture”. Her previous work experience include the French Development Agency (AFD), as well as the French Education Coalition (Coalition Education).

Océane is currently based in Dakar, Senegal, and can be reached at

Ashina Mtsumi

Policy and legal officer

Ashina Mtsumi is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya, currently assisting with policy and legal research and advocacy on the role and impact of private actors on the rights to education, health and water. Ashina comes to GI-ESCR from Hakijamii, one of our partners in this and other projects, where she carried out research and advocacy on the right to education and supported strategic litigation on the rights to land and housing.

Ashina is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Sarah French

Human Rights and Social Services Campaigner

Sarah French is currently work at the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as a campaigner on social services and human rights. Her work focuses on building a global movement against privatisation of social services, particularly around privatisation of education.

Sarah has worked with human rights and international development organisations within Canada and abroad. She recently worked with Amnesty International Canada and Human Rights Internet. She holds a BA(Hons) in Human Rights and Political Science from Carleton University and an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom.

Sarah is currently based in Ottawa, Canada.